Newcastle United face a very tough start to the 2023/24 Premier League season as they welcome Aston Villa to St James’ Park.

While the Magpies were the surprise package last year in finishing fourth, Villa were not far behind under Unai Emery.

He has galvanised that club since replacing Steven Gerrard, and will be looking to improve further in what will be his first full season at Villa Park.

Emery will be eager to replicate Howe, whose first full season on Tyneside ended with Champions League qualification. It was remarkable, and has led to a change of expectations when it comes to the Magpies.

In his pre-match press conference, Emery stated that Newcastle ‘have’ to be in the top four. Those words put pressure on Howe’s side, but there is no expectation to qualify for the Champions League again.

Newcastle United v Villarreal CF - Pre-Season Friendly
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Right now, Howe will be focussed on starting the season strongly like he did last year, and pundit Paul Merson believes that is exactly what will happen.

Paul Merson predicts Newcastle to beat Aston Villa

As part of his column for Sportskeeda, Merson has predicted the results for the opening weekend of the 23/24 Premier League season.

He believes that Newcastle are going to beat Aston Villa on Saturday, winning 2-1.

“This is a big match,” he wrote.

“Aston Villa could pull off a few upsets this season and finished very well last season. Newcastle pulled off a top-four finish and have brought in some very good players.

“Unai Emery is good at his European fixtures, and Aston Villa have not won a trophy in a long time. They might find it difficult to find a balance between their European games and their Premier League form.

“Newcastle finished in the top four last season and might find it difficult to achieve the same result this season.

“Newcastle are very good at home – the games they lost at St. James’ Park last season were close.

“If both these teams are anything like they were in pre-season, this will be one hell of a game. Newcastle have the home advantage and I’m backing them to win this weekend.”

Manchester United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Perfect start for Eddie Howe

This is a really tough opening game for Newcastle. It is one of those fixtures that you could see going either way.

We have faced Villa twice since Emery took over from Gerrard. They battered us 3-0 at Villa Park last season, while we recently drew 3-3 out in America during the Premier League Summer Series.

A game as entertaining as that would be a dream for the St James’ Park faithful, but the priority will be getting three points on the board as early as possible.

Beating an emerging team like Villa would be a real statement of intent from Newcastle, who are not expected to do quite as well this season.

Most pundits have the Magpies finishing outside the top four, but the perception might slightly change if Howe’s side can start the campaign with a win over Aston Villa.

Related Topics